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Akron is drowning in poverty


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A person would think that if they spent a few years working with the homeless that they’d be fairly well versed in the level of poverty in their town.

But I’m here to tell you: every day I uncover a new layer of extreme, severe poverty that continues to shock me.

Yesterday a woman told me she left her tent for a week. When she came back someone had moved in and setup a Barbie child’s tent inside and was RENTING out that portion of the tent. This person found that they could sublet a fucking tent.

Also yesterday a person told me they were going to be out on the street soon because they couldn’t afford the $150 A WEEK rent they were paying for the room they were in.

It is not uncommon for me to learn that a person has snuck into one of our two houses and is now living there. Shoeing people out of our houses is a regular occurrence.

A woman recently told me that the house she is staying at is constantly filled with people that aren’t paying rent.

HUD organized the homeless in 4 categories:

Category 1 is a person that is literally homeless. They are living in a shelter or in a place not fit for human habitation… like a tent.

Category 2 is where homelessness is imminent. They will lose their residence in 14 days or less.

Category 3 is a person considered homeless under other federal statutes. They haven’t had a lease for the last 60 days. They’ve moved at least twice in the last 60 days. And this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Category 4 is a person fleeing domestic violence and has nowhere to go.

We all think of Category 1 when we think of “the homeless”.

But, I’m here to tell you, that’s just the tiny tip of the iceberg. Category 2-4 is a massive storm raging under the surface.

These are people that are mostly invisible. They are nearly impossible to track. But they have become like this endless nightmare in my life. I see them everywhere. They are like ghosts that “proper” society can’t or won’t see. They are living in an uncertain limbo. Not in a tent. But also certainly not on stable footing.

We know that the poverty rate in Akron is 24.1%. One out of every 4.2 residents of Akron lives in poverty.

That is 47,681 people.

A ward in Akron is roughly 20,000 people. You would have to JAM PACK 2 full wards with the people living below the poverty level.

The numbers, while shocking, become antiseptic and theoretical.

A new study, American Neighborhood Change in the 21st Century: Gentrification and Decline — just released by the University of Minnesota Law School, examines poverty and causes in the country’s top 50 metro areas. They write:

The Cleveland region features two central cities, Cleveland and Akron. The region’s neighborhoods are experiencing powerful economic decline and virtually no gentrification or growth.

The report goes on to say:

But neighborhood decline is much more severe in the cities of Akron and Cleveland, where about 75 percent of population lives in a strongly declining area.

I see how those numbers manifest every single day.

A house becomes a life raft for a ship that has sunk long ago.

If you bought a $5000 house and just let anyone move into it I can pretty much guarantee within a week you’d have about 15 people living in it.

A man yesterday was thinking of offering one of his rental properties to 6 homeless youth he knows. He’s not in the homeless service sector. He’s just a landlord that knows 6 HOMELESS KIDS.

I have also started to observe where rage begins in your body. I feel pretty confident it begins in our intestines, moves into your stomach and then fills your heart. I know this because I feel rage on a very regular basis.

Society just accepts these things.

Mayor Horrigan, in a perfect caricature of elitism and being out of touch said “living in tents is simply beneath human dignity and should not continue.”

Oh. Do you think, Dan? No wonder you became mayor with that astute observation. I wish I had thought of that.

So, while you let us all know that people shouldn’t be living in tents they are now living unsheltered under bridges, in doorways and in dumpsters because you are sweeping away every god damn homeless camp you can find in your city. You are making things worse. Not better.

You are overseeing a city swirling down the drain while you tell us we are experiencing a Renaissance.

The only place in northeast Ohio that is experiencing anything even close to a “Renaissance” is the little neighborhood on the near west side of Cleveland called Tremont.

North Korea lets its people live in abject poverty so it can play war games with the rest of the world.

Tell me there aren’t similarities with how Akron is being managed right now. Ignoring real problems, while telling everyone else how amazing Akron is.

You don’t have to be some soft-hearted person to understand the real consequences of letting this infected wound linger and fester.

This deep, inset poverty poisons the entire system. Does anyone think a city can’t go bankrupt? Does anyone think a city can’t disappear?

If Akron’s systemic poverty numbers were the cause of a hurricane we would declare a state of emergency and take immediate, drastic action. But because Akron is a pot that slowly turned up the heat to boiling we have accepted the devastation in which we live.

We blame the victim. We tell them to stop being so lazy, stop doing drugs and get a job.

Extreme numbers of addiction is the product of total hopelessness. That turns into depression. And the end result is systemic failure. Akron is failing. Akron is in retrograde. I’m not over stating this. I’m telling you as a person on the ground, in the trenches experiencing the hurricane of Akron poverty, we are in deep shit. It’s not going to just fix itself.

We have to take immediate, drastic actions. The only way we are going to turn Akron around is by doing things no other city in America is doing because no other city is experiencing the severe, chronic, massive levels of poverty concentration we are experiencing.

We need real, innovative, drastic leadership. TODAY!

 

 


The best way you can support the work we do at The Homeless Charity is by becoming a Patron for as little as $5/month. It shows the government people care about the homeless and it helps us manage our budget a lot easier. Please click here: Become a Patron!

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